First of all, I am full of shit. I was actually thinking I’d come to India like a second Crocodile Dundee where no snake bites, no robbers, no infectious diseases could tame my sense for adventure. I thought I would come here and if I had to, I would walk all the way to Darjeeling with a detour to Calcutta’s house of charity, originally founded by Mother Theresa, where I would drop of all the sick folks I’d picked up along the way.
In reality, 5 days into my stay in India, after a painful, dirty 30-hour train ride from Mumbai to Kerala, full-on diarrhea and sore muscles from carrying a heavy backpack, I’ve now said good-bye to cheap but uncomfortable train-rides and hello to the world on Indian inland flights. In fact, I was so thrilled about the idea of spending only 50 euros and avoiding 50 hours worth of train travel that I bought not one but three flights. Kochi to Delhi, Delhi to Calcutta, Calcutta to Mumbai. And back home from there. Three little plane rides and all of a sudden India feels like a walk in the park.
Here’s a little list of the pros and cons of train versus plane travel, so you can decide for yourself:
- takes an average of 1 to 2 hours
- full meals from smiley flight attendants in saris
- missing out on a lot of scenery, fewer opportunities to meet local Indians
- great scenery watching, some of my most memorable images of india are things i saw through that open window
- you’re likely to befriend a welcoming Indian family who sits near you and will likely offer you some of their homemade goodies while asking you all about your origin and marital status
- takes an average of 10 to 48 hours (depending on how hardcore you chose the length of your journey)
- is almost always delayed
- hanging out at railway station usually means tons of children, women, old people begging
So really, train rides are not all that bad at all. Besides, in India there are 5 classes you can travel in:
– chair class, dirt cheap but definitely not an option as this department is always overcrowded and you’re not certain of a seat assignment
– sleeper class, a popular option for most backpackers as here you get a bed attributed and there are open windows and fans to keep you cool(ish)
– 3AC, 2AC, 1AC – the AC classes are 3 to 8 times more expensive than sleeper class which do not make them a fab option. However, if like me, you’ve just put a very long journey behind you in sleeper class you might crave the comfort of an AC train department with curtains and linen on your bed, closed windows (means no outside dirt coming in) and rich Indian families and business types as your department mates, so a lot less hassle here with stares etc.
And busses?, you may ask. Let me tell you this much: DO NOT TAKE BUSSES IN INDIA. I might be exaggerating but seriously I have made only bad experiences with busses and so have a lot of people I talked to about the issue. If you’re not stuck with goats and chickens then you’ll probably have a broken tire or an icy cold AC on and a conductor who could care less. If you find yourself on a bus either way, Sophie’s guide on how to survive a (night) bus in Asia might be helpful.
Finally, the masterclass of getting around India – at least, if you only want to cover relatively small distances – is hiring a private driver. For as little as $40/day you will have a driver take you around in a car with A/C – you decide when and where to go, and when and how long to stop. You’ve got the entire backseat to yourself, your bags are safely stowed away in the trunk and there is nobody near to hassle you. After a few days on public transport, this might be just the right thing to come down again.
For more tips and tricks for traveling India – solo, for the first time or just very carefully – check out Kathi’s post on how to get the most out of your first time in India.
Have you been to India before? How did you choose to get around?Tweet